As protests continue around the country in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, actor Kevin Costner, star and producer of “Black or White,” is lamenting the difficulty in finding reliable information in the sensation of media coverage.
“What is the truth? I don’t know anymore — and we have 500 people trying to tell us,” Costner said in an interview on Variety‘s PopPolitics on SiriusXM. “There’s megaphones coming at the whole world. If our stories are mixed up, we’re not capable for cutting through the noise and getting the truth.”
In “Black or White,” Costner plays an attorney engaged in a custody battle with an African American family over his mixed race granddaughter. The actor says the movie deals with race “in a very authentic way, and it’s not a look backward, it’s a look forward.” On the witness stand, his character admits to using the “N” word before answering, in one of the movie’s key moments: “It’s not my first thought that counts. It’s my second, third and fourth that will define if I am a racist.”
Costner hopes that “Black or White,” now in limited release, will provoke a more complex discussion about race. He financed the movie himself after major studios passed on it.
“It gets talked about, but what I think happens is a lot of times a conversation gets stopped dead in its tracks because if somebody thinks they are losing, race comes up even if the word has no place in the discussion. It trumps the point someone is trying to make, or what they are trying to talk about and it has no place there. Race has a place in our country and a terrible one, and it is one we are still grappling with, but oftentimes we just feel we know how to talk about it and if someone feels they are losing the argument the conversation breaks up, it stops, it just comes to a shrieking halt.”
Costner says that when it comes to media coverage, “the facts are what is important to me.”
“If anything that was covered was a lie, I resent that. That feels as big as any crime as any committed.”
Costner says that Chris Rock’s recent comments on race relations are “very insightful. He has a really good take on things. It’s an overview, but it’s an honest one” In an interview with New York magazine’s Frank Rich, Rock said, “When we talk about race relations it is all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserved what happened to them before.”
Costner says, “To not talk about it in an honest way, that is the crime.”
Also on “PopPolitics,” Dave Berg, former producer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” says Leno thought it was important to follow Johnny Carson’s tradition of not being overtly partisan on the show. But he says if asked, Leno would say that he was a social liberal and fiscal conservative.
Berg, the author of the book “Behind the Curtain: An Insider’s View of Jay Leno’s Tonight Show,” also talked about the five-year effort that led to booking President Obama on the show in 2009, when he became the first sitting president to make an in-studio appearance on a latenight talkshow.
One politician who never did Leno’s show was Bill Clinton, and Berg suspects that it was because of Leno’s nonstop humor during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But Hillary Clinton appeared, and she was “very gracious.”
On The Mix segment, Variety‘s David Cohen and U.S. News’ Nikki Schwab talk about the hacker attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the possibility that it was a North Korean reprisal for the studio’s release of the movie “The Interview.”
Variety’s “PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT and Fridays at 3 p.m. PT on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124.